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Falling Action: Best and Worst of UFC 141


gave us a night to remember on the way out, and now we charge boldly on into a new year with an even more frantic fight calendar. I hope you're taking this opportunity to rest up and prepare yourselves, people. Things are only going to get busier.

But before we completely turn our backs on the year that was, let us return one last time to Friday night's event for a look at the biggest winners, losers, and everything in between from UFC 141. It's the least we can do.

Alistair Overeem

He stood in the center of the Octagon when Lesnar entered, fixing him with a cold, dispassionate stare as the former champ jogged around the perimeter. When Lesnar passed by without so much as a glance in his direction, Overeem turned to his corner and nodded as if to say, Yeah, we got this one. As it turned out, he did. Overeem showed zero fear of Lesnar. He bullied him in the clinch and made him look not just mortal, but downright vulnerable. Was this the one true test of his skills that Overeem's detractors have been waiting for? Yes and no. He took Lesnar apart "piece by piece," just like he promised he would, but he also didn't face many serious takedown threats in the short bout. That might still leave some questions about his wrestling ability, but you can't doubt that he's an elite heavyweight who deserves a crack at the title. Not all his fights have been against top competition, but this one was and The Reem looked every bit as good as advertised. It's time to give this man his due. Hopefully he can get that lawsuit with Golden Glory squared away so he can get his money, too.

Brock Lesnar

If he really does call it quits now, MMA history may not be terribly kind to him. His last three fights go a long way toward supporting the theory that Lesnar was the classic bully who folded under attack, and people are more likely to remember the images of him skittering backwards and crumpling to the mat than they are to recall his struggle his diverticulitis and what it may have cost him career-wise. It's still remarkable to think of what he managed to do in such a short time and with so little prior fight experience. His presence and his success in the sport brought a new level of attention and awareness to the UFC, which is the kind of rising tide that lifts all ships. Even if we don't remember him as a great heavyweight, we'll have to recognize his status as one of the true superstars of this little era. It's just a shame he couldn't have packed more actual fighting into the few years he spent inside the cage, but if he feels like he wants to retire, then he absolutely should. I just wouldn't want to be a deer anywhere in North America now that that guy has a lot of free time on his hands.

Johny Hendricks

Georges St-PierreB.J. Penn

were unable to do. Whether that necessarily puts him among the welterweight elite, we'll have to wait and see.

Anthony Njokuani

Danny Castillo

-- maybe even finished him. He defended himself well once the fight got to the mat, but that's not enough in that division. Every potential opponent with a double-leg that's worth a damn will look at this film and see a blueprint for victory. Njokuani's job is to make sure that the next person to try and follow it is in for a painful surprise. If he can force people to stand in front of him and play his game, he'll be in business. If he can't, he'll end up as just another striker complaining about being surrounded by wrestlers.

Least Impressive in Victory: Jacob Volkmann
Rarely do you see a fighter whose personality so perfectly matches his fighting style. Both in the cage and in interviews, Volkmann comes off as awkwardly off-putting and the exact opposite of entertaining. The only exciting moments of his decision win over Efrain Escudero came when he nearly got choked out, and his post-fight interview was painfully uncomfortable. Bringing politics into the cage is a risky proposition to begin with, but doing so with a bad joke poorly delivered is the worst of all possible worlds. Watching Volkmann trying to tell a joke in the presence of actual comedian Joe Rogan was like watching Jerry Seinfeld hit mitts with Greg Jackson: it just feels wrong on every level. I'm not sure who is encouraging Volkmann to continue playing this political angle, but they're doing the man a disservice. He's got enough of an image problem with his fighting style. He doesn't need to make it worse by using every interview to demonstrate why comedy should be left to the professionals.

Baddest (Individual): Nate Diaz
Is there anything short of an unexpected drug screening that can make one of the Diaz boys take a step backwards? Just like his brother Nick, Nate Diaz showed why pace, pressure, and a willingness to take a few to give some back is a dangerous combination. He got right in Cerrone's face and never left, peppering him with blistering punch combos that seemed on the verge of giving "Cowboy" a bad case of whiplash. After the fight, according to Cerrone, Diaz came up and apologized for knocking his $1,000 cowboy hat to the floor at the press conference, telling him, "Here, take mine." Is it just me, or is Diaz become one of the UFC's most oddly compelling characters? Whatever the UFC decides to do with him next, the one thing you know is that you could stick him in the cage against Napoleon's army and he'd at least make a fight of it. The UFC will always have a use for guys like that.

Mr. Self-Awareness: Donald Cerrone
He came out flat-footed and never really got his offense working, and he was the first to admit it. He was also refreshingly candid in the post-fight press conference, admitting that Diaz took it to him and made him eat his words. In a world where excuses and regrets are the preferred armor of each night's losers, it's nice to see a guy who can provide such an honest assessment of his own failings. When Cerrone intends to smash your stupid face, he'll tell you. When he instead got his own face smashed, he'll tell you that too. He didn't quite have it against Diaz on Friday night, but he still made sure that fans got their money's worth, which is why he earned his fourth bonus in five fights. Maybe it wasn't a perfect year for the "Cowboy," but it was still a memorable and profitable one.

Best New Prospect: Jimy Hettes
Dana White admitted that he hadn't really paid much attention to Hettes prior to UFC 141, but the skinny grappler has his attention now. Nam Phan couldn't have been more outmatched if he was going up against a tag team, and the judges' scores reflected as much. I mean, 30-25, 30-26, and 30-26? At that point, the judges might as well stop tallying the numbers and just write 'BEATDOWN' across their scorecards. Hettes could obviously use a little more polish, and he's not ready to be thrown in with the big dogs just yet, but he is someone worth keeping an eye on. If he's indicative of the next generation of MMA fighters, you can't help but be very excited about this sport's future.

Hype Train with an Uncertain Destination: Alexander Gustafsson
Vladimir Matyushenko may be 41 years old, but all you need to do is look at the guy's record to know that beating him still puts you in pretty solid company. Gustafsson looked more comfortable than we've ever seen him in the Octagon, and right away you got the sense that it was only a matter of time until he found a way to end this one. Still, I'm not sure if it's his size or his youth that has some people whispering about how he'd do against Jon Jones, but those people need to slow their roll. Gustafsson is a talented young fighter, but he's still a work in progress. He needs to shore up his wrestling if he's going to jump up to that next level in the light heavyweight division, and that's not going to happen overnight. All his training partners rave about him, but what he needs right now is time to grow as a fighter. By the same token, he should see if he can't hurry it up a little. At the rate Jones is slicing through challengers, Gustafsson's number might come up sooner than he thinks.